Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media networks. For the right business Instagram marketing can be a social media rocket, boosting your brand and creating an army of followers.
This is especially true if your business is targeting 20-something Millennials. With around 1bn monthly users worldwide, Instagram’s largest demographic is 18-24-year-olds. Instagram is less useful if you’re targeting older customers. Fewer than 6% of over 55s use Instagram according to research by NapoleonCat.
It’s widely popular in the UK too, with over 23m users according to Statista and around 56% of UK users are women according to NapoleonCat.
How does Instagram marketing work?
Owned by Facebook, Instagram offers a way to share photos and videos. You can post a photo or video, adding a caption and hashtags to describe it. Other Instagram users find your post by searching for the hashtag, and they may then follow you to see everything you post as well as share your content with their followers.
With its focus on visual quality and trends, Instagram is particularly suited to fashion or designer brands, retail, restaurants and food businesses. But with millions of business fighting for attention on Instagram, you’ll need a strong marketing strategy before diving in. There are several ways to reach an Instagram audience and an effective marketing strategy will mix posts, Instagram influencer marketing and advertising to get the maximum reach.
It’s easy to waste time and money chasing an Instagram audience. Set clear goals – such as a target number of followers in a set amount of time – and focus your attention on hitting this goal.
Here are our top Instagram marketing tips for growing your business.
Sign-up for an Instagram Business account
An Instagram Business account is vital for any Instagram marketing activity. It includes essential marketing features and analytics tools that can show how Instagram users interact with your posts. Choose a recognisable user name, and make sure you enter your full business name into the ‘Name’ section of your profile. Unlike standard Instagram accounts, business accounts can include useful information such as your business hours, phone number and location.
Supercharge your Instagram profile
It pays to spend time getting your profile right. Instagram places tight limits on how you can link to your business. Your profile description is limited to just 150 characters, so make every character count. Include keywords, hashtags and phrases about your business, such as ‘University #Student #Vintage #Fashion on a #Budget’. You can only include a single link to your business in your Instagram profile. Use a web link redirect service such so you can see how many clicks the link gets to your website.
Link your Instagram profile to your other social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter. That way your Instagram posts are automatically posted to those accounts too – a great way to boost your social media reach.
Creating Instagram marketing content
Images matter on Instagram. It’s a highly visual network and any Instagram marketing strategy must focus on photography and video coupled with short, snappy and engaging captions. Avoid using Instagram’s default photo filters. Instead, invest in decent photo-editing software to add some professional sparkle to photos before you post them.
Creating successful Instagram posts takes carefully planning, such as using these Instagram marketing tips:
Instagram content – Because it’s quick and simple to post to Instagram, experiment with different types of posts to see what works. Try behind-the-scenes photos and video of your business or quirky product shots. Encourage staff to post selfies and photos that show a more human side of your business. When launching new products, use teaser photos and video to create a buzz of anticipation. The aim is to post content that creates interest without the hard sell.
Instagram video – Video watching is soaring on Instagram according to Hootsuite, with an 80% yearly increase in video and the number of videos created each day quadrupling from 2017. Short video clips that are easily shared work well. Amusing video clips that show staff or go behind-the-scenes work well too.
Instagram Stories – Bring your brand to life with Instagram Stories. Designed to convey longer messages, they work like a slideshow for your business. They stitch together video and photos into a story that lasts just 24 hours before disappearing. Unlike posts, Stories can include a call to action and links that can direct followers to your website or encourage them to buy online. Over 400 million Instagram Stories have been created – with one third of the most viewed Stories originating from businesses. Over two million brands use Instagram Stories.
Instagram feed style – Keeping post content consistent helps ensure you build up your brand message. Avoid random images and a mix of different post types. Keep to a specific colour scheme and style of photo by using the same type of filter.
Using hashtags on Instagram
With billions of photos posted to Instagram, it can seem almost impossible for a small business to get their Instagram marketing posts seen. One way to get your posts discovered by your target audience on Instagram is to use hashtags ‘#’.
Typing a ‘#’ before a word or phrase in your post allows others searching for that word or phrase to find your post. For example, you might use #BlackFriday or #JanuarySales to target people looking for sales, whereas #VintageFashion could see your post appear for someone searching for vintage fashion ideas and photos on Instagram.
Taking time to use hashtags properly will make your Instagram posts more effective. The aim of hashtags is to put your content in front of the right audience.
Less is more – You can use up to 30 hashtags on a post but avoid peppering your post with hashtags. Ten hashtags per post is the norm and aim for a minimum of five.
Use trending hashtags – Don’t make up random hashtags and hope for the best. Start by typing the hashtag into Instagram’s search engine to see how many posts are using the same hashtag to give you an idea of its popularity. Keep your hashtags relevant to your business – there’s no point in using a popular hashtag such as #cheapfashion when you sell luxury clothing.
Niche hashtag – Using niche hashtags in tandem with popular ones can help your business be discovered. A vintage clothing brand for example may use a popular hashtag such as #tbt (throwback Thursdays) along with #vintagefashion on a photo of retro clothing in a bid to attract a suitable audience.
Along with hashtags, the rest of your caption must be carefully crafted. Keep captions short. If a user has to click ‘more’ to read the full caption, there’s a risk your post will get less engagements – as much as 15% fewer likes and comments according to HooperHQ. Adding emojis – smiling faces and high-fives – can increase engagement, but limit emojis to three to ensure the post is still readable.
Scheduling Instagram marketing posts
Regularly posting on Instagram gets the best results. Big brands post several times a day, but it’s best to focus on quality rather than rely on a barrage of posts.
Take some of the sweat out of posting to Instagram by scheduling posts. Schedule posts for your customer’s peak usage times. If you’re not sure when this is, then aim for lunchtimes (12noon to 2pm) and early evenings (7-9pm) when Instagram is very active, with Wednesdays and Thursdays being peak days. Experiment with different times of the day to discover which times are most effective.
Scheduling tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Later and Sendible can be very useful – many offer free options and trials before you need to buy.
Instagram influencer marketing
Instagram marketing has paved the way for the rise of influencers – people who share brand and product information with their vast number of followers. Developing an Instagram influencer marketing strategy can help promote your business. While this approach can be expensive, the results can be impressive.
Influencer marketing ranges from free to incredibly expensive. Fashion influencers are sent huge amounts of free clothing, for example, while travel influencers are whisked off on trips for cruise companies and tour holidays. The idea is that the influencer will then post photos of your product or video of their holiday, encouraging their followers to become your customers. Some influencers command huge fees to promote your product on their Instagram channel.
There are some advertising rules that your business and the influencers need to follow in the UK. Promotional posts have to be clearly labelled as promotional – an influencer must disclose that they’ve been paid to promote the product. However, with over 60% of Instagram users claiming to have discovered new brands and products via influencers, it’s an effective approach to Instagram marketing.
Choosing an influencer is straightforward. Look for the Instagram users with the biggest audience and most engaged followers in your industry. Contact them and ask if they’d promote your business or product. You can offer to send them free samples to keep or ask if they’re willing to promote your business for a fee. Some work through influencer agencies, which can coordinate your campaign across different influencers.
Much like advertising on other social media platforms, Instagram ads let you promote your brand and products to a defined target audience.
Instagram advertising is relatively cheap and getting started is simple. There are five types of ads: video, photo, carousels, Story ads and Canvas Story ads. All can include buttons with a call to action, such as ‘Buy now’ or ‘Book now’ with a link to a website.
You’ll need to connect your Instagram account to your Facebook Business Page to get started, and Instagram ads are controlled using Facebook Ad Manager.
Monitoring Instagram posts
Creating posts is only half the battle. Any successful Instagram marketing strategy involves monitoring how your Instagram activity is performing. Don’t waste time posting photos that never generate a response. If certain photos and posts perform well, creating more of same can give your business a boost.
Instagram has built-in analytics tools that can help when you first start. As your Instagram presence builds and you get more followers, advanced analytics tools might be needed; leading suppliers include Hootsuite Analytics, Iconosquare and Union Metrics.